Wednesday, January 20, 2010


A little Gingerbread anyone?

Once upon a time there was a very rich family by the name of Vanderbilt. In 1889-1895 George Washington Vanderbilt built a little Chateau that would become America’s most sumptuous residence. The estate of 125,000 acres of land was laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s foremost landscape architect. Following the wishes of George Vanderbilt, upon his death, his wife sold 87,000 acres to the government for the creation of the Pisgah National Forest. Today, the legacy of Biltmore is all felt all around the region. The family still owns approximately 8,000 acres of the original estate and manages it in multiple ventures. The original town of Best was purchased by the Vanderbilt family to house the staff and the commercial center of the estate and is today known as the Biltmore Village.

Biltmore House after the blizzard

A little stone work facade in Asheville

Asheville, was known as early as the late 1790’s as a place to go for a tuberculosis cure. George’s Uncle had died from tuberculosis and this fact may have been a reason for locating the Biltmore estate in this area. Asheville grew from a sleepy little town into what can be described as a modern glamorous east coast city with commerce, industry, fine architecture, restaurants and culture. The Great Depression affected Asheville like all other places. The demise of the mills in the region brought about a new depression of the region that started receding when Asheville’s charms were rediscovered by many, but retirees in particular in the 1980’s.

One of the trendy outside eateries, but not today!

Today, Asheville’s charms are many. Funky artist, like retirees have also discovered it and are making it home. The place is alive in spite of its small population. People walk or cross country ski on its streets, as appropriate, and certainly huddle in warm places during the cold. This blizzard seemed to have added to the normal hubbub. New trendy restaurants sit next to old grand ones and galleries and antique shops seem to cater to every taste.

Too bad you can't get your coffee and trip at the same time

A Deco masterpiece from another era

Popular dining with a player grand piano; your typical McDonald in Biltmore Village!

The grand Grove Park Inn on its towering hillside

The best statement from my trip was at a friend’s party where a young woman was making a case about the collection of people enjoying each other’s company at this party and suggesting that Asheville was like a magnet summoning a new generation to its hillsides. Whether fiction or fact we were certainly a motley crowd from around the country enjoying each other’s company.

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